Southern Coalition for Social Justice’s (SCSJ) Justice System Reform Program promotes social, economic, and racial justice by focusing on directly affected communities who bear the brunt of our deeply flawed and intractably racist system of mass incarceration. Informed and led by community input, we use litigation, organizing, issue advocacy campaigns, communications, and expert policy analysis in a braided approach to disrupt, dismantle, and reimagine. Our work seeks to support, protect, and empower safe and healthy communities while creating a less punitive, more accountable criminal legal system.
Promote Youth Justice:
SCSJ supports communities of color and grassroots organizations working to end the over-criminalization of youth. We represent young people and their families who seek justice and accountability from schools and legal systems that too often disregard and punish youth rather than provide services and support. We provide communications, messaging, and policy support to shift narratives criminalizing youth — efforts which include developing and disseminating advocacy toolkits that empower and support community organizing efforts. We also work to lift up the voices of justice-impacted youth, who are too often ignored, to inform future policy decisions about resource allocations and ways to better support young people. Centering the most impacted and allowing them to tell their own stories is essential to our work.
End Mass Incarceration:
America’s incarceration crisis is the ultimate example of the politics and underlying culture of dehumanization we must end together. Our government is not merely failing to eliminate systemic racism and reduce vulnerability but instead exacerbating both with the carceral state. We lock up more people than any other country on Earth. We criminalize poverty, needlessly separate children from their parents, and destabilize and destroy families, even entire neighborhoods, in the process. SCSJ seeks to reduce the number of people entering and remaining in the criminal legal system. We focus on front-end issues, like policing, over-criminalization, and the prosecutorial function. We also focus on back-end issues, like safely bringing people home from jails and prisons and ending excessively harsh policies fueling mass incarceration.
Support Second Chances:
No one is the sum of their worst mistakes. We focus on helping individuals who have experienced involvement with the criminal legal system to navigate the reentry process with dignity, stability, and hope. Reentry is rarely a straightforward and effortless process, leaving many directly impacted individuals alone on the journey back to their communities. We are committed to a holistic reentry process that ensures individuals are championed at every step of the way and which fights against the lack of outreach, resources, and structural support that presently exists. For many people, obtaining gainful employment or housing is contingent on their ability to clear their records. Through our Clean Slate initiatives and toolkits, we advocate for an accessible expungement process so that every person has a meaningful and dignified opportunity for a second chance.
North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty — The Southern Coalition for Social Justice is a proud member of the North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (NCCADP). Members of the SCSJ Justice System Reform team meet regularly with NCCADP partners to brainstorm strategies for not only raising awareness and educating the public about the injustice of the death penalty, but also for ending the death penalty in North Carolina altogether.
UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health — The Southern Coalition for Social Justice (SCSJ) is partnering with a UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health graduate student team to discuss and analyze the “justice” system in North Carolina, as well as community-led preventative programs and alternatives to criminalization that impact youth and their community. This group will partner with community members previously or currently impacted by the juvenile justice system and/or the school-to-prison pipeline, who will act as either co-researchers or research participants. The goal of this project is to amplify the voices of impacted community members to guide future discussions regarding ending youth criminalization in North Carolina.
In The News
Charlotte Police Body Cam Footage Illustrates Inappropriate, Unjustified Response in Steele Creek Arrest
CHARLOTTE (Dec. 13, 2023) — The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) released body camera footage this week from an arrest initially caught on a bystander’s video in November. During the arrest, CMPD officers are seen repeatedly punching and kneeing a woman. The highly anticipated video footage only lays bare how utterly inappropriate, unjustified, and reckless officers’ actions were…Read More Charlotte Police Body Cam Footage Illustrates Inappropriate, Unjustified Response in Steele Creek Arrest
DURHAM, NC (November 8, 2023) – European Union diplomats and human rights advocates gathered at Southern Coalition for Social Justice’s (SCSJ) new offices last week to meet with stakeholders about ending the death penalty in North Carolina. The event — in which delegates met with law enforcement from across the state and individuals impacted by…Read More SCSJ hosts EU Delegation to Call for an End to Capital Punishment in North Carolina
Case Summary: SCSJ and Emancipate NC are representing Move the Monument Coalition Edenton-Chowan in their fight to remove a Confederate soldier statute from the town’s historic waterfront. The Coalition took root on June 19, 2021 – Juneteenth, which commemorates the final enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865, nearly two and a half years after…Read More Move the Monument Coalition Edenton-Chowan
Case Summary: SCSJ represents Jeffrey Duke, who was sentenced to death in 2003 in Gaston County. Mr. Duke is challenging his conviction and death sentence. Status: In 2023, Gaston County Superior Court Judge Jesse B. Caldwell III ordered an evidentiary hearing on three of Mr. Duke’s legal claims: ineffective assistance of his trial counsel during…Read More State v. Duke
Jake Sussman Interim Chief Counsel, Justice System Reformjsussman@scsj.org
Tanita Holmes Counsel for Justice System Reformtanita@scsj.org
Aimee Durant Senior Counsel for Justice System Reformaimee@scsj.org
Melissa Boughton Communications Directormelissa@scsj.org
Sala Abdallah Community Organizersalaabdallah@scsj.org